FIFTY YEARS OF BOSSA NOVA
Bossa Nova, Brazil’s unique mix of jazz and samba, celebrates 50 years this month with shows by one of the genre’s pioneers, João Gilberto, who brought The Girl from Ipanema to the world. The three concerts by 77-year-old Gilberto in Rio and São Paulo sold out within an hour of going on sale Thursday, testifying to the lasting appeal and inspiration of both the silky music and the singer’s hypnotically breathy performance.
Gilberto — the surviving member of the trio behind Bossa Nova that also counted composer Tom Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes — has not sung in public in Brazil for five years. His reputation, though, has never diminished, ever since August 1958 when his singular voice and guitar playing appeared on Chega de Saudade (Enough Longing, or, more commonly in English, No More Blues), a tune by Jobim and Moraes.
That was the first track to lay out the cool, intimate harmonies of Bossa Nova that add complexity to samba’s more basic rhythms, giving it a jazz evolution whose impact has been felt over decades. US jazz greats Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd fell under its sway and added to its popularity.
But it was a 1962 worldwide hit by Gilberto, with his then-wife Astrud and Getz, that became the Bossa Nova standard. Garota de Ipanema, adapted to English as The Girl from Ipanema, was picked up by many singers, including Frank Sinatra. In 1963, the English version of the song raced up international charts. “We only lost to the Beatles. And there were four of them,” wryly remarked Jobim. Bossa Nova spread everywhere from the mid-1960s, from Copacabana apartments to New York jazz clubs.
In Rio de Janeiro today, Bossa Nova has been supplanted by other genres, notably other samba variations and US-style hip-hop or rock. But, it can still be heard, a persistent note characterizing Brazil’s iconically beautiful seaside city. “Today, there are a lot more albums than 40 years ago. It (Bossa Nova) is not at the top of the charts, but it is still a style picked up by people of all ages,” said Ruy Castro, an author of several books on music. Lyra, the singer and composer who appeared in Carnegie Hall 46 years ago, was less generous. “If somebody asks me today where they can hear Bossa Nova in Rio, I say ‘nowhere’. The music is more popular in Japan and Europe than in Brazil,” he said.
(http://music.ndtv.com/story. August 17, 2008. Adaptado.)
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